What’s more kiwi than a day at the beach? Chances are that if you’re travelling to New Zealand, you’re going to be in Auckland at some point. If nobody’s told you yet, you HAVE to head up north of Auckland. There seems to be an endless amount of coastline north of Auckland, and to be honest you’re going to find some of the best and most unique beaches in New Zealand here. Only 90 minutes north of Auckland you’ll find Tawharanui Regional Park – a haven for native birds, fantastic hiking and unique coastline that offers up rock pools, caves, and a great beach for swimming, surfing and bodyboarding.
How to Get There
Easy peasy! Head north of Auckland, over the Bridge and drive through to Warkworth, turning right at the intersection (Matakana Road), and head towards the coast, driving through the picturesque village of Matakana, continuing about 20 minutes on towards the coast. Google Maps is going to help you on this trip, but its generally a pretty easy journey with some really nice scenery.
Feeling hungry? Need a coffee? Want to have a look around before hitting the beach? Good news, there’s heaps of stuff to do on the way.
The Honey Centre
This is a really cute stop where you can get a coffee or a small bite to eat, but the highlight will undoubtedly be the “live Bee wall”, where you can see the Bees working their magic (see if you can find the Queen!). They’ve got a cool little shop with honey, bee’s wax candles and other bit and pieces worth a look. New Zealand honey is quite special in that it has a lot of health benefits, but in all honesty I don’t know much about that, so best to check out their website for more information:
Matakana is the nice little village you’ll drive through on the way to the beach, and is absolutely worth a stop. Heaps of cafes and restaurants to have some food, and plenty of shops but most importantly, more than a few wineries. While I’m trying to talk about the beach, it’s important that we acknowledge our many fallen comrades who have stopped off in Matakana and have not made it to the beach, instead enjoying all of the charm (and wine) that Matakana has to offer. We salute you!
Pu-what? Puhoi! Puhoi is another little village on the way (sort of) to Tawharanui that is famous for its dairy products – cheese, milk, yogurt, and they’re all delicious! Now, I haven’t stopped in Puhoi myself, but I’ve heard that again, it’s a great little town with an awesome pub, nice places to eat, and you can get a great ice cream or coffee there. Sounds like its definitely worth a visit!
Tawharanui Regional Park
The first thing you’re going to notice is the big green fence with automatic doors as you enter into the park – this is a predator-proof fence built 2.5km long to encourage native birds like the Kiwi and Pukeko to breed, and other rare birds have been re-introduced to the area too.
So, you’ve arrived at the park, jumped out of your car and have walked a minute or two and have now laid eyes on the main beach – Anchor Bay!
Anchor Bay has white sand, Pohutakawa trees (oh so New Zealand) and beautiful blue water. From here, it’s up to you what you want to do. To the left there’s plenty of beach front to explore, and to the right there’s a cave, the rock pools (when the tide is low), a nice hill with a great view, and a beach that has bigger waves for better surf.
The water at the main part of Anchor Bay are perfect for everyone. Just want to dip your feet in? Sweet as! Do you want to body board or jump in the waves as they come crashing down on you? No problem – there are good waves to do this, not too big, and not too small either. Want to paddle out a little and relax before the waves form and crash? No worries, as you don’t need to go out too far to do this.
Who doesn’t like a bit of exploration? There are various caves out and around the area, and of course some of these are tide dependant. However, there’s an awesome little cave near the water to the left of Anchor Bay just as you enter. It has two entrances/exits and makes for some pretty cool pictures and videos. Explore a little for your self and you’ll find some other places that I haven’t yet!
Pro Tip – Google the tides prior to heading out to Tawharanui. I’ve been twice now, and still haven’t been able to go out to the rock pools as it’s been high tide, making these rocks inaccessible. Don’t be like me people, learn from my mistakes!
Okay, I was going to try and tell you all about the different birds that you might see when you get here, but I found a cool resource that has pictures and descriptions of all of them.
You can check it out here: https://www.tossi.org.nz/assets/pdf/brochures/tossi_bird_brochure.pdf
My favourite is the Pukeko, the beautiful blue and black bird that you’ll see heaps in New Zealand.
Big shout out to TOSSI – the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc for the awesome description of the birds!
Again, this isn’t something that I’ve done yet, but there are some great walks and hikes around the Park. There are 7 signposted trails, and it sounds like the 2 hour ‘Eco Trail’ is one of the more popular ones from Anchor Bay.
Definitely something that’s on my to do list.
Also of note, there is a camp ground here, so don’t feel that you need to do everything all in a day. Stay the night, camp, and continue on with your adventure into the next day!
Is it Worth it?
This one isn’t even debatable, if you want to experience a little slice of Kiwi Heaven for yourself, you need to get out to Tawharanui and experience the magic! While there’s plenty of beach and lots of tree cover, be sure to bring some sunscreen, a hat, and if possible, a little pop-up shade/shelter because this place gets pretty busy in the summer, so you don’t want to be left baking in the sun.
Let me know if you make it to Tawharanui Regional Park and what you think!